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OVER A QUARTER CENTURY OF DEDICATION TO PROTECTING, PRESERVING AND PROMOTING EROTIC ART.
June 13 - September 13, 2015
New York, NY

Artists Space
presents:

Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play
TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled (Panel 20 from Kake vol. 20), 1977, Pen and ink on paper, 13.13” x 9.44”, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #77.70, © 1977 Tom of Finland Foundation
TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled (Panel 20 from Kake vol. 20), 1977, Pen and ink on paper, 13.13” x 9.44”, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #77.70, © 1977 Tom of Finland Foundation

Opening: Saturday, 13th June, 6 – 8p

The Pleasure of Play will be the most comprehensive Tom of Finland survey exhibition to date, including more than 190 drawings, gouaches from the 1940s, over 300 pages of collages, as well as early childhood work.

Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen; Finnish; 1920, Kaarina – 1991, Helsinki), is considered to be the most iconic gay artist of the 20th century. 25 years after his death, the wide-reaching cultural impact of his work, in comparison to his global status, has only been infrequently presented, examined or discussed.

Tom of Finland’s biography parallels pivotal moments of 20th century (gay-) history, bearing witness to the disasters, the turmoil and the radical changes that took place during his lifetime. Indeed, his work stands in dialectical relationship to these events and the often oppressive culture that surrounded him. Starting from an early age, Tom played with the iconographic conventions upon which both the representation and the very conception of masculinity are based. His emblematic, larger-than-life drawn phalluses not only threaten the existing symbolic order of heterosexuality, but also reorganize the principles by which (homo-)sexual desires are structured. His fearless portrait of sexuality can also be read as a portrait of the sadomasochistic relationship that is at play between culture and sub-culture itself, an aspect that is as much present in his work, as it runs through gay culture of the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as through his own biography.

A child of teachers, Tom grew up in rural Finland. At age 19 he enrolled in a distance learning advertising course. Soon drafted, he joined the Finnish Army in its fight against the Soviet invasion. After the war he stayed in Helsinki studying classical piano at the renowned Sibelius Academy. While at the Academy, he worked as freelance graphic designer, becoming later senior art director at the Helsinki branch of the global ad agency McCann Erickson. In 1973, after 17 years with the firm, he quit to be able to focus entirely on his own work. In the late 1970s, on one of his frequent visits to the US, he met Durk Dehner, with whom he founded Tom of Finland Foundation in 1984, based in Echo Park, Los Angeles.

Because of Tom of Finland’s compound status as artist and pop icon, his work has been admired by artists for many years. Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial jumpstarted Tom’s international career in 1957; Robert Mapplethorpe helped him get his first major gallery exhibition in New York in 1980; Mike Kelley invited Tom to speak at CalArts in 1988; Raymond Pettibon became a lifetime supporter of Tom of Finland Foundation; as did Richard Hawkins, who continues to work with the Foundation today.

Leading exhibition support provided by: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, through its Curatorial Fellowship Program; The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, through its Mobius Fellowship Program; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; and Galerie Buchholz, Berlin.

Tom of Finland Exhibition Supporters Circle: Philip Aarons & Shelley Fox-Aarons, Shane Akeroyd, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Nicoletta Fiorucci (Fiorucci Art Trust, London), Greene Naftali Gallery, Wade Guyton, Michaeljohn Horne, Robert Longo, Bjarne Melgaard, John Morace & Tom Kennedy, Lari Pittman, Jack Shear, Cindy Sherman, Brent Sikkema, Danh Vo, Jordan Wolfson, Mark Grotjahn & Jennifer Guidi, Ingar Dragset & Michael Elmgreen, Robert Gober & Donald Moffett.

Special thanks to Stefan Kalmár, John Morace and Richard Hawkins.


Harri Kalha, Kati Mustola and Leena-Maija Rossi
Talks & Discussion

Sunday, June 14, 5pm

Artists Space Books & Talks
55 Walker Street

$5 Entrance Donation
Members Free, Guaranteed Entry

TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled, ca. 1947, Gouache on paper, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection, © 1947 Tom of Finland Foundation
TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled, ca. 1947, Gouache on paper, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection,
© 1947 Tom of Finland Foundation
This program is the first in a series of talks, screenings, and discussions organized in conjunction with Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play. Art historian Harri Kalha and sociologist and LGBTQ historian Kati Mustola will each give a presentation discussing Tom of Finland's work with a particular emphasis on gender and queer histories in Finland. Following the presentations, Kalha and Mustola will be joined by Leena-Maija Rossi to moderate a discussion. Rossi is the Director of the Finnish Cultural Institute, New York, and was one of the first Finnish critics to write on Tom of Finland's art in the early 1990s.

Harri Kalha is Adjunct Professor of Art History and Gender Studies at the University of Helsinki, and Adjunct Professor of Visual Studies at University of Turku. Kalha recently edited a scholarly anthology on pornography, Pornoakatemia! (2007), which won the Finnish award for "Erotic Charge of the Year", and was the author of Tom of Finland: Taidetta seksin vuoksi (The Art of Having Sex) (Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2012).

Kati Mustola has written and edited books, articles and museum exhibition texts on LGBT history. Her research specializes in the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the workplace. Mustola's most recent English-language publications include Criminally Queer: Homosexuality and Criminal Law in Scandinavia, 1842–1999 (Amsterdam: Aksant Academic Publishers, 2007), co-edited with Jens Rydström; and Tom of Finland: Ennennakematonta – Unforeseen (Helsinki: Like, 2006), co-written with Berndt Arell.

Leena-Maija Rossi is the Director of the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York. She has previously worked as researcher and teacher at the University of Helsinki, and as a cultural critic and freelance curator. She has published widely both in Finland and internationally; her most recent book Muuttuva sukupuoli (Versatile Gender) is forthcoming in Finnish in 2015, published by GAUDEAMUS Helsinki University Press.


Drawing In A Straight Line
Nayland Blake, Carlos Motta, Collier Schorr
moderated by Bob Nickas

Artist Panel
Thursday, July 16, 7pm

Artists Space Books & Talks
55 Walker Street

$5 Entrance Donation
Members Free, Guaranteed Entry

COLLIER SCHORR, Traitor, 2001-2004, black and white photograph
COLLIER SCHORR, Traitor, 2001-2004, black and white photograph, 104 x 81 cm / 40.75 x 31.75 ins, edition of 5
Courtesy Modern Art, London

This discussion considers Tom of Finland’s influence upon and reception by artists, as preeminent postwar gay icon. Moderator Bob Nickas will be joined by New York artists Collier Schorr, Nayland Blake and Carlos Motta.

With the rise of queer theory since Tom of Finland distributed his first drawings in the early 1940s, its assimilation into the art world and the academy, and a growing, though necessarily incomplete, queer awareness within mainstream culture, both queer subject matter and its representation and contestation by artists have shifted radically.

Tom of Finland’s drawings established an iconic, deviant masculinity, fundamentally playful and proud. They are formative to many artists’ understanding of the possibilities of representing a body. Yet their joyful projection of, and play upon, identity overlays an instinctive complexity: some of the drawings handle deep-seated taboos, including Nazi iconography unhinged as fetish symbols, whilst cops are guys to fuck and be fucked by, whether through prison bars or in public. The work is washed with a power play imbued within the process of representation itself. As queer art practice has been deconstructed through lines of multiplicity and intersectionality, so have historical understandings of power, and deviation from dominant power, been complexified. For this reason the relationship between Tom of Finland’s work and contemporary artists’ practice remains important.


Summer Special Tom of Finland Film Evening

Artist Panel
Friday, August 28, 7pm - late

Artists Space Books & Talks
55 Walker Street

$5 Entrance Donation
Members Free, Guaranteed Entry

MARLON RIGGS, Tongues Untied, 1989
Tongues Untied, 1989
Marlon Riggs, 55min
Credit: Signiyin’ Works

In conjunction with the recently extended Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play (now on view through 13th September), Artists Space presents an evening of back-to-back gay classics.

Gays don’t want to be gay, but be as bourgeois and kitschy as the average citizen.

It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives, Rosa von Praunheim, 1971

It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives, 1971
Rosa von Praunheim, 67min

Taxi zum Klo (Taxi to the Toilet), 1981
Frank Ripploh, 95min

Tongues Untied, 1989
Marlon Riggs, 55min

No Skin Off My Ass, 1993
Bruce LaBruce, 73min

With music video interludes.


Founded in 1972, in Downtown New York, Artists Space has for four decades successfully contributed to changing the landscape for contemporary art – lending support to emerging artists and emerging ideas alike.

Artists Space
June 14 - August 23, 2015
Hours: Wednesday – Sunday,: Noon – 6:00pm
38 Greene Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10013 · Map
55 Walker Street, New York, NY 10013 · Map
212-226-3970
 · info@artistsspace.org
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MALE MUSE
"Whenever I was depressed or disgusted, I would feel him, that spirit inside, urging me back to living, back to drawing, I believe there is a lot to the world that can’t be seen or touched, and if you turn away from that — especially if you are an artist — you are avoiding an important part of life, maybe the very heart of it.” — Tom of Finland